Of course, I can’t divulge the non-public details but I will try my best to explain, from the enlightened user’s perspective, why I believe Bing is qualitatively different from the familiar names like Google and Yahoo and why it’s worth a try or more.
Bing is marketed as a “decision engine” rather than a search engine–but what does that mean? It means that Bing should be a destination for users who are looking to make a decision–which flight to take, where to buy the camera, whether to work out in the morning or in the evening, and which hybrid vehicle to try out–and in order to make a smart decision, the users need reliable information–whether flights from SF or Oakland are cheaper, critical reviews of the camera, calorie metrics for different workout regimes, and comparisons of the Prius and the Insight. Essentially, Bing tries to do more than bring you a list of ten websites it believes will be the most informative. It brings the information to you, directly.
Let’s take a look at few examples:
- Which flight to take: Search Oakland to Seattle
- Find reviews, prices and shopping links for the Nikon D40: Search Nikon D40
- Research specs for the Toyota Prius: Search Prius
- Track your packages or find customer service numbers: Search UPS or Fedex
- Solve simple equations: Search x^2+1=3
Search itself is a commodity. Research has shown that web surfers can’t distinguish between the three major search engines in blind experiments (where people were given no hints of the engine via the formatting, style, or anything of that sort). Even shortcut-features like “define caprice”, “54log(3)”, “TSL” and “China’s Unemployment Rate” come standard with the top search engines.
So Bing tries very hard to bring the information to you in a neat, organized fashion (If you click around, you get the information in a clean, tabulated format). That’s the main distinguishing feature of Bing: The goal of eliminating the need to click on multiple links to find the information you’re looking for, hence their advertisements on “search overload.”
Microsoft understands that it’s behind in the search market; it started late and did not have a strong brand associated with just search. It knows that the only way to claim its place in the search market is to not lose sight of the overall goal of providing information by focusing entirely on search. Therefore, it sought to distinguish itself from other commodity search engines like Google and Yahoo by bringing more than just links to you. I invite you to take a look at Bing and explore its features, and if you like them, share them with your friends and coworkers. On the other hand, if you see something missing, let me know (comment below) and I will try to accommodate!
Understandably, the impact on the search market will not be substantial. People are used to Google; to over 2/3rds of the world, search MEANS Google. Overcoming that sort of resistance will be very difficult, if not impossible. People are creatures of habit; therefore it will be quite a task to unseat the incumbent as long as it does not become complacent with its market share like IE did after defeating Netscape.
Although I don’t expect Bing to overtake Google just because of the recent change, I do expect it to gain some momentum and some followers. Over time, people will come to appreciate Bing, if not for the fresh new approach to decision-making and information-gathering, then for the introduction of serious competition to the search space.
At the very least, we can expect search to be an extremely competitive landscape dominated by three services that won’t give up. Ultimately, that is good for every one of us. I hope you give Bing a try and report back on your experience!